Part Two of a Dystopian Novel Set in 2039
In Part One, we met Wayne Decker, a very old man kept comfortable at a state retirement facility in the state of Arizona. The year is 2039. Wayne is old but in full control of his mental faculties. He has observed many changes in his lifetime including riding in a Ticky, an autonomously driven car, and the removal of meat from his diet. But Wayne is not yet done with life nor is he without significant cognitive skills. For Wayne, life was always about navigating obstacles and solving problems, and pulling pranks.
If you’re just joining, please read Part One here.
This is where we left off… Wayne sat still for a few minutes, stunned by the whack. His head didn't hurt but he worried briefly about his blood pressure and the rusting pacemaker in his chest. Looking at no one, he resumed eating without ever attempting to see who had smacked him. He knew who it was. That confused his table mates some. They didn't know whether to admire his 'turn the cheek' stoicism or to think of him as a 'pussy.' Wayne perhaps thought it best not to 'dignify' his attacker by responding or even acknowledging her. It didn't matter. No minds were changed. But it did allow for dinner to resume quickly, and soon the sound of clinking silverware, yapping dogs, and muffled discussions took the place of uncomfortable silence.
Wayne sat alongside Highway 203, soaking in the sun with his eyes closed. As the Ticky's ticked by, his meandering thoughts added a smirk to his perennial smile.
He was thinking back to Mrs. Hamlin whacking him with her purse when it hit him. Perhaps the poor lady was still in shock over what happened to her little Sepia, her precious dog, that she needed someone to punish. Maybe she needed to reestablish her bona fides as a true dog lover after having almost killed her dog. Perhaps she needed to prove that the bigger threat to doggies was not absent-minded little old ladies but insensitive old men like him. Yes! That is why she took a big ole swing at him with her purse. It was to restore her reputation. Poor lady.
It was a night or two before the 'smack to the back of his head' incident that Mrs. Hamlin nearly lost Sepia. She, too, lived on the third floor of the Level 9 building. Same as Wayne. She was returning to her room from the dining hall with Sepia following her on a leash. Alone in the elevator and distracted by her cell phone beeping, Mrs. Hamlin never noticed that the elevator door closed without her Sepia. Sepia, an aging Jack Russell dog, immediately started yelping. She must have thought she was being abandoned when the elevator door shut, and she could no longer see her master.
It was the type of elevator where two doors closed in the center. So it made perfect sense that as the elevator began its ascent, the leash quickly followed unceremoniously banging Sepia first into the door and then yanking the poor yelping dog straight up the door seam slamming her head against the top of the stainless steel elevator frame. Anyone standing nearby could hear Mrs. Hamlin's fading screams from inside the moving elevator. The leash was yanked from her hand as she imagined Sepia being crushed by the internals of the elevator.
Poor Sepia! Reduced to the width of a piece of cardboard as she is pulled through the door. Death was certain. She was sure of it. The collision with the elevator frame tore Sepia's plastic neck collar in two, dropping her right into the hands of Ms. Alexa, the Level 9 manager, who had been standing just down the hall and witnessed the entire accident. She arrived just as Sepia's collar broke and caught her before she could fall the seven feet to the floor. Sepia was shaking from the ordeal but completely unharmed. But it didn't go so well for Mrs. Hamlin.
Mrs. Hamlin was in full hysterical panic. Instinctively, she began frantically banging on all the buttons on the elevator panel. Unfortunately, that just delayed her return to find her decapitated Sepia. Her worse fears had taken over. Pieces of her poor Sepia would be found in the elevator shaft. Blood would be splattered everywhere, and an officer would be there to haul her away for animal cruelty. She'll have deserved it. She'll plead guilty and spend the rest of her life in prison. She’ll ask for solitary confinement as penance.
Unfortunately, her worse fears just made her more frantic. The elevator stopped on the second floor with the door opening and closing multiple times as she kept hitting all the buttons. If someone were waiting to take the elevator, they didn't get in with Mrs. Hamlin. She was screaming and sobbing and cursing and pushing buttons furiously. When she arrived at the third floor, a staff member sent by Ms. Alexa to run up the stairs to meet her as the door opened. He attempted to calm Mrs. Hamlin to no avail. But he did take control of the elevator and together they returned to the gathering crowd on the main level.
All the way down, he reassured her. "Sepia is ok," he repeated over and over. Mrs. Hamlin just kept sobbing. She could see what was left of the leash on the floor of the elevator. It lay severed like Sepia's head. How could Sepia be ok? He was just bull-shitting her. Her worst-case scenario kept playing in her head. But seeing is believing, and when the elevator door opened and there was Sepia licking the neck of a very stone-faced Ms. Alexa, all Mrs. Hamlin could do was crumble to the floor sobbing. Ms. Alexa knelt down with Sepia and returned her to her owner.
Wayne found himself fingering the dog leash knotted to his walker as he awoke to the sounds of the Ticky's ticking by. He let his mind slip even further back by recalling the times as a young boy he'd watch the cars and trucks thunder by his boyhood home. He could see the drivers, even their faces, and if they were smoking or not. Two hands would be clutched to the steering wheel by cautious, careful people giving their full attention to driving. Others would be engaged in very animated discussions using just one arm to drive and the other to make a point. He once witnessed an irate red-faced father swerving from lane to lane attempting to swat a wayward child huddled deep in the opposite corner of the back seat. Very rarely, fortunately, a responsible driver would be hit by a swatting driver at the red light at the end of his block. If the collisions were severe, fire trucks and ambulances, and police vehicles would scream to the carnage. Sometimes the cautious driver died at the scene while the swatting driver, now pale as a ghost, sat on the curb with head in hands furiously working out why he can't possibly be at fault.
It was perhaps this childhood experience that caused Wayne to first think about death and dying. He recalls wrestling with the injustice of the innocent dying at all. In some ways, the swatter deserved it. But not the other driver and certainly not the swatter's children. The family now must write eulogies and buy flowers and a burial plot and pay the embalmer and preacher and then find some way to move on.
A boyhood Wayne would spend hours staring at the stars to make sense of the world. He didn't know it yet but he was in the formative stages of developing his own worldview. Then a star would streak by as if falling to earth and then he learned it wasn't a star at all. So, it is with the formation of world views. They require constant reforming.
To Wayne, it appeared that life operated on two different planes. Together but in some conflict. One level suggested life was assured and to be pursued with goal setting and planning and record keeping. Futures with milestones and security were to be scheduled and anticipated. The other level saw life as random and fragile and of little permanence. We are but sand on a seashore. Happenstance, or fate, or crystal’s hanging from pyramids, or God's Will, were actually in control. Plan away, you fool, a distracted driver is just an intersection away.
Perhaps Wayne hadn't fully awakened from his journey and was stuck in his childhood. Maybe he was so immersed in his flashback that he thought himself still a boy. Boyish curiosities never left Wayne. So it was easy for Wayne to wait for just the right moment to push his walker to the end of its dog leash to the middle of the road where it stood waiting. The coming Ticky had but a split second to decide what to do. Thousands of calculations must be made. A walker is neither a human nor an animal. But it was an object picked up by the Ticky's sophisticated radar and it was moving unto its path. Just as the Ticky decided the best course of action was to stay in its lane and apply its full brakes, Wayne remembered that without his walker, he'd have a hard time getting back to the Level 9 facility. So with a mighty yank, he pulled his walker back just as Ticky was about to hit it.
By the time the Ticky came to a complete emergency stop, Wayne was rubbing his sore knee. The walker, having been tugged back by Wayne with enough force to collide with his previous 'nail through the kneecap' injured knee. By the time the Ticky had come to a complete emergency stop, Wayne was beginning to question his prank. But it was too late.
As Wayne rubbed his knee from the collision with the walker, the rear door of the Ticky opened and out rolled a completely naked man clutching his left knee. He was on his back, rolling back and forth, grimacing in pain. Maybe in his forties, completely bald on top but as hairy as a chimp everywhere else, he managed to turn over on the asphalt. Now on all threes protecting his injured knee by keeping it off the pavement, he peers down the road looking for some clue as to what happened. What possibly caused his Ticky to slam on its brakes, slamming his knee into the console?
While balancing on two arms and one leg and groaning from the pain, he scans the side of the road for some sign of an animal leaving the scene into the prickly desert. Then he notices an old man sitting on a bench looking back at him with his mouth agape.
Not more than fifteen feet from each other, A twelve-year-old acting Wayne quickly looked away attempting innocence and too infirmed to offer assistance. He didn't want to appear…
Next Part- The Year is 2039: When Pranks Go Bad
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